Burial grounds across the Diocese of Truro have been the subject of a survey over the last two years and the field works part of the project is almost complete.

The National Burial Ground Survey Project was announced by the Church of England in September 2021. Truro was one of the first dioceses to sign up and surveyors from AG Intl Ltd have been hard at work ever since surveying every churchyard, photographing all visible memorials, and digitising all current parish registers.

During the field work stage, over 160 hectares were surveyed – that is the equivalent of 299 football pitches. There have been 83,721 mapped memorials and 208,997 photographs taken. By its completion, this work will have involved digitising over 3,600 registers.

While surveying churchyards, the team have worked in all seasons and weather. They have not only discovered amazing living churchyards, but they have also come across fascinating headstone art and memorials to famous, and infamous, people. From Napoleon’s nephew in St Pol-de-Leon Church, Paul, who erected a memorial to the last Cornish speaking woman, to the astronomer who discovered Neptune in St Sidwell and St Gulvat in Laneast. There were memorials to Titanic victims in Penzance and Helston, and Cholera victims in St Erth. In Ruan Minor on the Lizard there was a memorial to Norman Mervyn Lewis – “not your average Norm” – according to his headstone. There was even an optimistic grave in Whitstone which stated that the occupant had “paid the parish £2 to keep my tomb forever”.

Hannah Rigby, AG Intl Ltd Project Manager, said: “Although we are now close to completing the field works, the project is continuing. We’ve completed the current register digitisation visits, and the memorial photography has been completed for most of the diocese with a few left to do in the coming weeks. We want to take this opportunity to thank all the parishes involved for their support so far.”

While there have been some delays in accessing the records held at Kresen Kernow, it is hoped that the work will begin imminently. Once that is done, work will start to create a digital index of all burials, marriages, and baptisms. Once completed, this information will all be available on the Church Heritage Record, which individuals and churches will have access to and provide a valuable resource.

Below: Images taken by Amy Brown, Project Delivery Lead from AG Intl Ltd, during the survey stage.